Kotlin: Can it compete with Java?

Java has held its position as the dominant programming language for developers for years now, but a new report suggests that Kotlin could be taking the lead for mobile development.


The study, released by Skill Up this year, revealed that 71% of its respondents believed Kotlin was a serious competitor to Java, in spite of the fact that it didn’t make the list of top languages favoured by developers overall.


Kotlin goes from Strength to Strength

Released back in 2011, Kotlin has been gradually growing its reach, and is today beginning to garner mass appeal among engineers. Last year, Kotlin became fully supported by Google’s Android OS, and the compilers of the Skill Up report predict that it could be competing even more closely with Java by the end of the year. This recent backing from Google seems to have increased programmers’ confidence in Kotlin; the report even suggested that Java should “beware”.


The rest of the Report

The report also showed that the most popular programming languages overall were JavaScript, Python, C#, and SQL. Java remains the most popular for mobile development (for now at least) whilst Python seems to be the language of choice for the highest-earning app developers. Meanwhile, C# emerged as the favoured language for developing desktop and enterprise applications.


In other areas, though C# took a dive – the report found that, overall, C based languages have declined in popularity “in favour of languages that can write more easily for the web”. The authors went on to suggest that “Only among desktop developers and game scripting does C# still hold the top spot”.


The survey also asked its respondents about development tools. Preferred tools for mobile development included: Android Studio, Xcode, macOs, Xamarin and iOS SDK. Of these, Android Studio was the most widely used, with 39% of those asked utilising it. Xcode, on the other hand, was used by only 17% of the survey’s 8,000 respondents. Of developers in the highest-earning category (those making $70,000 dollars or more), however, 50% used Xcode, iOS SDK and/or macOS.


For enterprise and desktop applications, the top tools were found to be .NET, Visual Studio and Java EE. The most commonly used databases were MySQL, SQL Server and SQLite. A number of app developers also reported finding uses for Swift besides mobile development.


Programming for the Web

The most popular languages for web development overall were JavaScript, HTML/CSS, PhP, Python, and Java. Interestingly, though, the report suggested that app and web development were being thought of less and less as separate categories. In fact, web and app developers were found to use largely the same toolchains. This may be because, more and more, “working in tech also means working with the web”. As more apps migrate to the cloud or browser, knowledge of the web becomes increasingly vital. The increased sophistication of today’s websites has also been a factor leading to greater emphasis being placed on knowledge concerning web development.


When it came to front-end web development frameworks and tools, the report found that JQuery, Bootstrap, npm, Angular and Webpack comprised the most widely used. The most popular back-end tools included Node.js, ASP.NET Core, Express.js and Laravel.



For systems administration and security, Python and Brash were found to be the most popular scripting languages, followed by JavaScript, Shell, and PowerShell. Wireshark, Nmap, Kali Linux and Metasploit were found to be the most widely used security tools. When it came to virtualization and system administration, the most popular tools were Linux, Windows OS, Docker, Ubuntu Server and Windows Server.


Respondents also thought that security was vital to the further development of IoTs, and that most organizations do not treat the cybersecurity threats with enough seriousness.



For looking at data, Python continues to be the language of choice, closely followed by JavaScript, R, and SQL. The most popular data tools, frameworks, and libraries were Excel, NumPy, Anaconda, and Pandas.


Respondents predicted that the next big developments for data will be TensorFlow, machine learning, and deep learning. Big Data is also expected to inspire new breakthroughs – 83% of respondents said they were excited by the possibilities afforded by quantum computing. As it stands, the top cloud provider for Big Data is AWS.



Below are some of the report’s more general findings:

  • The majority of respondents to their survey (65%) believed chatbots and UI to have a stable future in web UI space.
  • Developers seem to feel a sense of kinship with one another – 72% felt they were part of a community with other programmers.
  • 60% of developers said they were happy with their jobs.
  • Only 6% of respondents claimed to be very dissatisfied at work.
  • The vast majority of developers – 86% – believed that soft skills, such as communication and teamwork, were vital to their professional development.

The report concluded that “Only one thing is certain in the world of tech: change”, adding that adaptability is the hallmark of a successful career in the field.